To pick Colorado’s top craft beers and breweries in 2016, the Denver Post surveyed more than two dozen brewers and experts to reflect on the year in beer and look forward to 2017.
The latest installment in the 6th annual Beer in Review series features Scott Witsoe from Wit’s End Brewing in Denver.
Wit’s End started in 2011 as a nanobrewery and now operates a seven-barrel system. The brewery offers an assortment of beers, including a single-malt, single-hop series and a Star Wars-inspired beer line.
Here are Scott Witsoe’s picks for 2016:
Favorite Colorado beer of the year: Easy one this year: We opened a bottle from Casey Brewing and Blending after our anniversary party, it was their 2014 Fruit Stand Series-Plum, which was a gift from some friends. This beer stopped me in my tracks. It was so incredible, complex and delicate. Honestly, drinking this beer was a spiritual journey. I can’t wait to visit them someday.
Favorite Colorado brewery of the year: I’ve not been out to too many places this year, but I have to say what stood out for me was Black Project. I applaud James and Sarah (Howat) for making the bold move to focus on their spontaneous ales and closing their original Former Future brand. Both sides of the brewhouse had great beers, but the Black Project is so unique, and James Howat is a mad scientist that can indulge in the microbiology of their fantastic and unique beers. There is a lot to be proud of in this city with so many great breweries, and Black Project should be mentioned always as a place to check out for a unique drinking experience.
Favorite new Colorado brewery: Bierstadt Lagerhaus. I wanted to try and share the love, because I know everyone is picking these guys, but they deserve it. Bill Eye and Ashleigh Carter are awesome, and Bill is arguably one of the best German-style brewers around. I have been waiting a long time for them to open.
Colorado brewery to watch in 2017: Black Shirt Brewing. They are working on converting their space to have a full restaurant become a much needed brewpub in the River North area. Not only are these guys some of the nicest in the business, they are making awesome beers and they have lots of experience in fine dining. They are bringing on a great chef (Bill Greenwood) and once they get through all the “fun” conversion processes with the powers that be, they are going to absolutely kill it!
Most notable craft beer trend in 2016: The New England IPA seems to have come up constantly this year. I have not had a ton of them, but I’ve enjoyed just about all the ones I’ve tried — particularly Juicy Bits by Weldworks and Odd13’s Codename: Superfan.
I am not necessarily a huge fan of “stylizing” beer so much and needing to label things when brewers push the boundaries. I think we have exhausted the 1,000,000 IBU beers, and the notion that high IBUs imply a good IPA. I also like how we are getting away from clear beer equaling good beer. Reminds me of someone who once said “cold” is not a flavor. I think we are in a great time for drinkers in that most have had a chance to chase trends and develop palates, and now everyone is looking for changes to tradition as driven by unique new flavors.
Craft beer trend to watch in 2017: Unfortunately I fear the AB InBev infiltration of craft beer will not slow down. In addition to purchasing breweries, they continue to buy distributors — and they even bought a major home brew supply company this year. They are playing a long game that is not going to be good for the craft beer consumer, ultimately. The heart of this industry is strong, but they are a powerhouse and have the resources to permanently change things as they see fit. Not sure how everyone is going to fare in their wake next year.